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Michigan High School Ethics Symposium

In ancient Greece, figures like Socrates and Plato frequently attended convivial parties called symposia in the homes of Greek elites, where they discussed philosophy and important matters of the day. The Michigan High School Ethics Symposium similarly aims to foster spirited discussions about ethical issues that matter to Michigan's high school students and to our world. 

Individually or in groups, students give short 10- to 15-minute presentations on a challenging ethical question or case study. Following each presentation, the audience has an opportunity to ask questions, encouraging students to delve even deeper into these difficult and important issues. Like the ancient Athenians, these young philosophers come together to think, to learn, and to enjoy good, stimulating conversation and collegiality. Along with presentations, we will also crown the winners of A2Ethics' fourth annual case competition, which encourages high school students to write 500-800 word case studies on the ethical issues that matter most to them.

Join us for the 4rd annual Ethics Symposium on Sunday, March 17 from 2 to 5 PM at the University of Michigan's Tanner Philosophy Library. 


The symposium is hosted by The University of Michigan Department of Philosophy's Outreach Program, which was founded in 2011 with the aim of bringing philosophy out of the academy and into the community. In their own words: We offer opportunities for students and other members of our local community, especially those from backgrounds underrepresented in the academy, to engage with new ideas and to develop their critical thinking skills. We also aim to learn from those with whom we engage; since philosophy is concerned with making sense of human experience, we depend on insights gained through dialogue with a diverse range of perspectives and critical viewpoints.

In 2013, we began our partnership with A2Ethics, the local community group with whom we organize the Michigan High School Ethics Bowl. Our graduate student coaches travel to schools across Michigan to teach students moral and political theory and to help them apply these ideas to real-life case studies, which address pressing moral questions of contemporary relevance. The Bowl season culminates in a two-day interscholastic competition held annually in the winter. The winning Michigan team earns a place at the National High School Ethics Bowl in Chapel Hill, NC, which takes place each April. Finally, the Michigan High School Ethics Symposium, which closes our Bowl season, creates an opportunity for participants to carry their interest in ethics, politics, and philosophy further by presenting individual projects on ethical topics to an audience of peers, mentors, and friends. 

The ethos of the Outreach Program is aptly reflected in a quotation from John Dewey, a former chair of the Department at Michigan: “Philosophy recovers itself when it ceases to be a device for dealing with the problems of philosophers and becomes a method, cultivated by philosophers, for dealing with the problems of men.”